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Protect Your Camper With the Best RV Power Surge Protector

An RV surge protector is a must-have for all RVers. You may not hear people talk about it much, but it can save your electrical system. Keep reading to learn about these devices and why you need one for your RV. 

What Is an RV Surge Protector? 

An RV surge protector connects your RV electrical system to a power pole with an added layer of protection. If you plug directly into the power pole (or shore power), electrical surges can damage your RV’s electronics. A surge protector helps eliminate this problem, saving you from expensive repairs. 

best RV surge protector
This is our RV surge protector setup adapted to a 30-amp plug

How Does It Work? 

If a power surge happens, the surge protector detects electrical changes and mitigates damage. When using one, you’ll always connect the surge protector directly to the power source. Your extension cord will then plug into the surge protector (not the power pole). 

A power surge is usually a spike in voltage that can be caused by lightning, a grid problem, or even your neighbor doing something wrong. These voltage spikes are usually very short but very high and can cause all kinds of damage.

A surge protector includes a special circuit that consists of resistors, capacitors, and special diodes that react to high voltages. This circuit is designed to absorb or “shunt” the damaging power away very quickly. Sometimes, however, in very large surges, the surge protection circuit can become damaged and fail. It’s better the surge protector than your electronics, however.

Do You Really Need a Surge Protector for Your RV?

If you’re new to RVing, you might think an RV surge protector is just one more thing to buy. But do you really need it? If you ask us, the answer is a resounding YES! 

Without a surge protector, you could destroy your RV’s electrical system. It could also damage any electronics you have plugged in at the time of a power surge. So, for a few hundred dollars, you can avoid thousands of dollars of damage. 

RV Electrical Safety Tips and Recommendations- RV Security and Safety Series Part 3

Why You Need a Surge Protector for Your RV

Protection from power surges is the most obvious reason for owning a surge protector. Power surges might seem unlikely to happen, but it’s not a risk you should take. 

Some protectors can also detect shore power problems. These could be related to incorrect wiring or damage to a power pole. When you pull in at a new RV park, there’s no way to know if the power pole is working correctly until you plug in your camper. If there is a problem, the RV surge protector should do its job and protect your electrical system. 

A surge protector also protects from an open ground. If you’re not familiar with the term, an open ground means there’s faulty wiring or connections in the power pedestal.

A ground is typically a wire connected to a power source that allows excess electricity to exit the system if there’s a wiring issue. In this situation, it’s possible for the RV’s frame to become electrified and the entire RV can become a shock hazard. If something’s wrong with the ground or an outdated power pole doesn’t have one some surge protectors can warn you of the issue.

Best RV Surge Protector

Finally, many surge protectors protect from low voltage problems. Low voltage problems may arise from dirty or old connections or poorly insulated wiring.

Low voltage might not seem like a big issue, but it can cause your appliances to overwork and melt components, potentially causing an electrical fire inside your RV

Best RV Power Surge Protector

Now that you understand why these devices are so vital, let’s take a look at the best RV surge protector. That way, you can worry less and vacation more! 

Top Pick: Hughes Watchdog Series with EPO

Our top pick for RV surge protectors is the Hughes Watchdog line. The surge protectors come in both 30 and 50-amp versions. They offer Bluetooth connectivity to easily read information about the circuit and errors on your phone.

Another feature we love about the Power Watchdog series is that the surge protection unit is replaceable. Yes, this means that if a big surge damages the circuit while protecting your RV, you do not have to throw the unit out. You can fix it!

We highly recommend getting a Power Watchdog unit with EPO functionality as well. This stands for “Emergency Power Off” and will disconnect your RV automatically during any unsafe conditions.

Power Watchdog PWD50-EPO-H, Bluetooth Surge...
  • Replaceable Surge / Spike Module: Should a large spike happen,...
  • Wirelessly Monitor voltage, amperage, and wattage on your...
  • Plug-n-Play ensures a minimal 4-second power-on analysis to...

We personally use this surge protector and Tom has given it his electrical engineer stamp of approval (well. he is an electrical engineer and really likes it at least). They come in both portable versions or versions that can be hardwired into the RV so you don’t need to mess with it at the pedestal.

Another great feature of the Power Watchdog is that the dog’s face on the front of the EPO units glows a bright white when all is well but turns an angry red when something is wrong. An easy way to tell that there is an issue from a distance.

While these units sell on Amazon, we have partnered directly with Hughes to offer you a discount from their site if you use the code “Mortons.”

Hughes Surge Protectors
If you want the best surge protector money can buy check out watchdog and get our exclusive discount!

We also recommend this surge protector when connecting a 30-amp RV to a 50-amp pedestal. Learn why in our article: Can You Hook a 30 Amp RV to 50 Amp Power?

Honorable Mention: Progressive Industries 30XL/50XL

If you don’t need the bells and whistles of the Watchdog and want to save money, we recommend the Progressive Industries XL options. Progressive Industries offers an RV surge protector for either 50 or 30-amp connections.

Deciding which protector you need is simple: If your RV uses 50-amp power, you want the 50-amp surge protector. If you use 30-amp, you’ll need the 30-amp model. 

Progressive Industry SSP-50XL RV Camper Circuit...
  • Maintain electronic safety - This 50 Amp RV Surge Protector by...
  • Prevents costly damage - With a 50A/120-240V/12,000W rating,...
  • Powerful fault detection - As a 50 amp surge protector for RV,...

Both Progressive Industries surge protectors react in less than one nanosecond. This means they mitigate electrical problems almost instantly after they happen. Additionally, they protect from power spikes of up to 44,000 amps. 

Progressive Industries SSP-30X RV Surge Protector...
  • Maintain electronic safety - This 30 Amp RV Surge Protector by...
  • Prevents costly damage - With a 30A/120V/3,600W rating, SSP-30XL...
  • Powerful fault detection - As a 30 amp surge protector for RV,...

It’s also a solid choice for RVing because it’s weather-resistant and has a security lock. That way, you don’t have to worry about leaving it outside while you’re on the road. After all, it won’t do you any good if someone steals it! 

You can also rest easy with this purchase. That’s because the Progressive Industries surge protector comes with a lifetime warranty. 

How to Protect Your RV Surge Protector from Being Stolen

Leaving an expensive piece of equipment outside may seem like a recipe for disaster, but it doesn’t have to be. Our favorite surge protector (mentioned above) comes with a built-in locking mechanism. 

If you choose to go with another product, you still have options. Some power pedestals have a cover over them that you can secure with a padlock. If that isn’t an option, you can use a strong bike lock and pass it through one of the holes on your surge protector before securing it to the power pole. 

Nulock Keyless Bluetooth Bike/Motorcycle/Gate Lock...
  • 🔒CONVENIENCE: keyless, no combos, Apps work for Both iOS and...
  • 🔊ALARM: Vibration, breakage, disassembly and cable clipping...
  • 🛡ROBUST: 7 braided steel (each is made of 19 braided steel)...

You can also purchase several security cables to make it more difficult to steal your surge protector. Sometimes all it takes to stop a crime of opportunity is a slight deterrent. 

Surge Protectors Offer Peace of Mind

It may seem painful to spend several hundred dollars on an RV surge protector, but power surges are far more damaging. Not only are problems from electrical surges expensive to fix, but they could also cause an electrical fire. Ultimately, we think a few hundred bucks is a small price to pay for the added protection and peace of mind! 

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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Saturday 19th of November 2022

Disappointed to see that the WatchDog does not include any provision to connect the line line/load cables, such as a connector to secure the cables to the box, but merely a termination block that does not provide for any possible stress to the connection. Perhaps this is why I did not find a UL approval listed anywhere. This type of connection would never fly in a situation requiring NEC Code approval.

Samantha Nichols

Thursday 23rd of December 2021

I have nothing to say about this article. It is really good and I love it.

Samantha Nichols

Tuesday 7th of December 2021

We purchased the EMS-PT30X about 11 months ago and used it for 6 or 7 trips. This surge protector displays amps being consumed so you know if limits are being surpassed. A little bulking, but manageable and while it’s made for outdoor use, I tend to keep a plastic bag over the plugged in unit to ensure it’s lomg use. I use a couple of pad locks and a chain with one lonck around the cord and the other end locked to the eclectical outlet. The delay of electric flow after plugging in or an electrical interruption ensures RV components are protected. Have only used it for a couple of months and so far so good

Dalton Bourne

Monday 30th of August 2021

I have used this Hughes Performance RV22050 Autoformer to prolong the life of my RV appliances. There are so many things that I like about this 30 amp autoformer: It can withstand rapid changes in moisture and heat inside the RV. It can manage up to 10% voltage boost, which is very good for our appliances inside the RV. Specially, it has LED indicator lights for convenient monitoring.

Dalton Bourne

Monday 30th of August 2021

After weighing all the important details, I conclude that the Hughes Performance RV22050 Autoformer is one of the best RV autoformers in the market. It really protects appliances from being damaged due to low electricity surge.

GK Lott

Wednesday 3rd of March 2021

Are you sure you've recommended listed devices? RVers should only select surge protectors and other energy management systems (EMS) that are "listed", meaning the device has a UL, CSA, ETL, or similar certification. Hughes Watchdog Series does not mention being listed, but the Progressive Industries 30XL/50XL are UL listed. The RVIA and NFPA 1192, "Standard on Recreational Vehicles", require using only listed devices. The 2020 National Electric Code also added Article 551.40(D) that requires every RV have a visual or audible alarm when there's an ungrounded (black) conductor and grounded (white) conductor reversal. Hopefully a good listed EMS will be in every RV now coming off production lines.

Mortons on the Move

Wednesday 3rd of March 2021

You know I never actually chacked that, and now I am rethinking this, great point. I guess I'm happy ours is an external unit right now. As for the reverse polarity requirement its great to see this in code as its one of the largest hazards. I doubt the manufacturers will be installing high-quality EMS systems in rigs, but they should at least comply with the Code. I will get an article in our queue about this.